Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas Everyone

Not having visited Paris for many years I was still surprised at how familiar the backdrops to the terrorist attacks of the past Friday appeared. For those who have lost their lives, sustained injuries or find themselves fearful the events of Friday are a very real tragedy but what response should we offer?

For today the moments of silence are adequate. However as tomorrow comes so must a more substantive response and it is this that will define the future of Europe.

What About Productivity

The French could take Friday off and still produce more than Britons do in a week. The Economist, Mar 14th 2015

The UKs woeful productivity continues to enliven headline writers and prompt many discussions as to its cause and means by which it may be improved. While productivity may be a valuable target to improve, it is perhaps crucial to consider what such improvements would look like and how wider areas of public policy many need to be reformed to support it.

Productivity could be significantly improved on paper alone by encouraging employers and workers to only use the time required for a task to do a task. As a problem this is systematically encouraged through the use of zero hour contracts and the working tax credits propping up the low paid work force. How? The zero hour contracts allows the use of extra staff rather than systems or procedures to take up the slack. While successful in the short term it does so at the cost of productivity and at danger of exposing the business to more efficient competitors. The fact that a significant portion of the cost of the is additional zero hour employee is born by the state through in work benefits only sustains this practice through the reduction in employer cost.

The nature of the productivity measure requires the creation of as much value, in as little time, by a few people as possible. Consequently a high productivity work force could be free to choose increased leisure and family time, at a potential saving to both health and social care budgets, or the ability to consume more to the benefit of GDP but at the cost to the environment. Which ever outcome is sought it may require a redefinition of the appropriate use of time within both public and private space.

Government should seek to expand on the work of the working time directives and use it to prompt more effective and productive use of individual time. Simplistic policies such as outcome rather than time defined metrics should become the norm in both employment contract and also benefits entitlements. With the reward for completed tasks being the redemption of time as well as renumeration. Such policies will clash with business growth focus targets but may prompt growth in other areas instead a benefit to GDP.

These policies would not however resolve the more systematic problems of pointless work, being done as slowly as possible due to the need to sacrifice a number of hours so as to justify the level of renumeration individually required, perhaps the root cause of low productivity.

Trident A Pointless Toy

With the presence of the SNP and now the Corbyn led Labour party within parliament once again the issue of the Trident replacement is becoming front page news. I have always found the discussion very interesting as while I understand the arguments for Trident as a deterrent and granting the UK a permanent security council position I still fail to understand on what circumstances it would be usable. Could we not strap a whole load of explosive to the various reactors around the UK to achieve a similar end of life of earth result at a significant finical saving. An austerity era deterrent!

I think the first point of discussion in the replacement of Trident is surly on what grounds do we see the need for a pre-emptive strike system. While much is made of the strategic benefit of the submarine platform these benefits are generally only useful in the first strike capacity. While Trident probably did offer a significant security benefit within the context of the cold war, it is hard to imagine the use of such weapons even in the much discussed scenario of a rogue state. Would North Korean aggression ever be matched with a nuclear response, I think very unlikely considering the proximity to China, the intrinsic value to the land and the innocence of the general population.

Bizarrely I think the compelling potential usage cases of such weapon system actually comes from the realm of Hollywood, that of Alien invasion and collision course asteroids.

Borders, Chance and Justice

With the powerful images of Alan Kurdi body saturating the press the ongoing humanitarian disaster gripping the various dysfunctional nations surrounding Europe seams to have taken a welcome step towards an engaged response.

I personally was glad to see Giles Fraser article, within the Guardian, accurately portraying a biblical position of accepting all who seek refuge. While there may be a temptation to ridicule this fundamentalist, simplistic answer based on its practicalities, one could choose to ridicule biblical instruction based on its numerous claims of dead people coming back to life rather then practicality of implementation.

Essentially though the instruction of scripture reflects the reality that ones position at birth, utterly beyond the control of the individual often becomes the defining feature of an individuals life. So when we consider individual eligibility to travel across borders I think we should do so with a keen awareness that but for divine will, or chance we to could find ourselves on the wrong side of a border.